We just completed Wintersession 2015 at RISD, and Spring semester officially begins tomorrow! Wintersession flew by, but I engaged in a deep investigation with my classmates and Professors Brooks Hagen from the Textiles Department and Joy Ko from the Architecture Department. (Obviously right up my alley!) The class is titled Digital Sense, and we explored the role of the computational environment in design and culture. Technology is developing at such a rapid rate that we must not only push to new frontiers but also investigate the repercussions of our advancements.
One point of inquiry focused on the transition from physical to computational and back to physical. As a textiles artist, I appreciate artist Werner Pfeiffer's discussion of the very tactile difference between digital work and physical material.
The class also frequently touched on the role of technology in the evolution of humans. I recently heard an discussion with Yuval Noah Harari, author of the forthcoming book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He discusses the evolution of humans and our intersection with technology:
"When we think about the future we generally think about a world in which people who are identical to us in every important way enjoy better technology: laser guns, intelligent robots, and spaceships that travel at the speed of light. Yet the revolutionary potential of future technologies is to change Homo sapiens itself, including our bodies and our minds, and not merely our vehicles and weapons. The most amazing thing about the future won't be the spaceships, but the beings flying them.
Humans are going to upgrade themselves into gods. That is, humans will acquire abilities that in the past were considered divine, such as eternal youth, mind reading, and the ability to engineer life." - http://www.ynharari.com/future/ (further reading here.)
There is a path unfolding before us that must be questioned as it is embraced. While human beings are explorers constantly seeking the next frontier, whether it be microscopic or vast, we must evaluate the results and attempt to anticipate the repercussions.